Guys, I don't know what's going on in the world lately, but I do know this: people actually still think Keeping Up With The Kardashians is real. I'm somehow a finalist in a cookbook contest. And, when you make a cappuccino with questionably old milk, the hazelnut Nespresso pods will absolutely, definitively not mask the flavor of that dairy stank.
But, all of that (including my inability to focus due to burning myself out during a shockingly hard morning exercise class — I'm unable to do jumping jacks for longer than three minutes? Well, alright) takes the back bunsen burner to another thought clouding my mind. I saw a play last night called Really, Really, starring our one true love and modern day goddess, Zosia Mamet, and I kind of can't stop thinking about it.
Now, as the non-English major I never was, I'm not focused on the the implications of crime and blame or the thematic points about power struggles and their varied structures. I'm also no longer compelled by the instant need to dye my hair blonde, kindly encouraged by my friend Claire during intermission until I looked in the mirror later that night and realized, yeah, I would just be a ghost who looks like they were raised in Florida instead of Illinois. (And, of course, nothing like our wonderful Zo.)
But instead of being caught up on the main characters of the show — whose performances were as riveting as the male leads' beefcake hunk bodies were shocking — it's the mousy, lanky-armed roomate of Zosia's character who I'm hung up on. As a do-goodery, church-going type who likely labels her drawers within drawers, she spoke at a hypothetical Future Leaders of America conference, touching on one surprising idea that no one in actuality has sat us post-collegiates down and divulged.
In many words I am unable to remember, she explained that we have to find a way to get to where we want to go, to who we want to be. According to her cringingly true monologue, we are dealing with the "land of strategy" instead of the "land of opportunity", which posed a heavily rhetorical question: "What can I do to make this work? In any situation, what can I do to get what I want?"
Having treaded through this post-graduate sea for a handful of years now, I've never heard the current job market described in such an honest way. (Unsurprisingly, Really, Really was penned by a 27-year-old.) Asking "What are your goals?" or "What does it take to lead a satisfying life?" is something I don't feel was ever encouraged in any way beyond the ingrained base layer of a steady job with health benefits. All mantras were more along the lines of, "Work is work, and you're not supposed to like it. Just keep your head down and get through it."
But that's the problem. At this point, you can't survive doing a job you don't like, because work is, plainly put, your entire mother fucking life. It's everything. It's your identity, it's your public standing, it's who you are as a person. And lately, I've become wholly enraptured yet confused by the idea of how we, in this day and age, are supposed to master this so-called "land of strategy" when those inquiries of satisfaction are multiplying at unparalleled speeds.
Unlike our parents, who spent their time in offices chugging along and immediately afterwards at home relaxing, we have to do so much more just to stay afloat in today's society and its projected perfection. I often feel like I spend each day walking through a wind turbine propelled by other people's idealistic Instagrams and jealousy-inducing images, like I'm supposed to be everything all at once and yet am constantly failing at it. It's like keeping up with the Joneses, if only they lived in a glass-walled house and decidedly never slept.
All of those tiny, daily glimpses into other peoples' lives are drawing me back to that two-tiered thought: "What can I do to get what I want? And moreover, what in the fuck do I even want?!" It's almost caused me to believe balancing a career and a family isn't the heavy load of the "Women Having It All" paradox, but more so trying to become this idyllic Isabel Marant-wearing, nail art-creating, part-time blogging, side-hustling, chic friend-having, hot new restaurant-visiting, blissful relationship-having, Soulcycle-attending powerhouse of a woman, with enough time left over to put an cast iron pan-cooked organic dinner on the table each and every night.
Sometimes, I feel like I'm cracking under the pressure of simply existing. There's a fear that I'll look back on these years and have nothing but a memory headache to show for it; when I try to focus on how fast time is flying by and what I may have accomplished in the past few months, all I see a colorful blur paired with a searing pain through my right temple.
I'd felt this weird cloud of pressure for a while now, but until last night, I never realized that maybe it wasn't just me. Maybe this "land of survival" is the explanation for everything. While things are generally going great, I stay up inconceivably late for no reason at all, am endlessly tired, and panic if I wake up past noon on the weekend. I'm nonsensically nostalgic for childhood, for Saturday morning high school musical rehearsals more than ever. I crave ease, relaxation and fun, because frankly, I can't remember what those are like in tandem, especially in a modern world with its hourly, daily pressure to do whatever you possibly can to get what you want, and to become what you want to be.
I'm realizing only now why I've been doing what I'm doing, and also, that I probably need the shit out of a beach vacation. But, until those definitive answers begin presenting themselves, it might be in all of our best interests to focus on that question's second half — What the fuck is it that we want? — and do ourselves a favor for once by finding the most enjoyable, exciting, ease-filled path towards it possible.
(Photo borrowed from those fine, play-loving folks at the New Yorker)